The N-95 Mask Half Full

In thinking about whether I had anything more to add to the conversation around COVID-19, my first inclination was to just stay quiet. What else is there to say? Whatever I write would either immediately get too political or, even more likely, too depressing. And really, I’m not an expert in anything and I don’t know the most about any of the various angles. I don’t know the most about any of the statistics, or what more our administration should have done in terms of preparation (a LOT more). (See? Already political.) I don’t know much about the mathematical models of when the illness will peak, how to better flatten the curve, or why Tennessee has fewer cases than Georgia when the Nashville honky tonks were jam-packed as recently as last week. None of it makes any sense.

But I do have a thought.

It occurred to me that we are kind of living out that ’90s Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors where her life changes based on the smallest variable: not catching a train.

Right now, if we look in one direction, we are in the most depressing, scary, horrifying period in modern times. I mean, this is likely the WORST set of circumstances most of us will ever live through. Not since the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic has the world seen such a catastrophic health crisis. And, God willing, it will hopefully be another 100 years or more before anyone has to go through the loss of life and downright terrifying day-to-day existence that we are going through right now.

But then Gwyneth makes the train, opens the subway door, and we’re watching a totally different movie. This second door, for us right now, is where the beauty lies. The inspiration. The harmony. The hope. “The best of times, the worst of times” and all that.

Is this pandemic also the “best of times?” No, of course not. This is awful and only a delusional monster would say otherwise.

But what I’ve seen in these past three weeks is people making-the-best-of-it of times, and that is not insignificant. That is where I want to lean. It has been nothing short of magnificence.

The outreach, the sharing, the kindness, the memes, memes, memes. The weird ideas (my kids just spent three hours preparing a wedding for two coconuts), driveway birthday parades, singing from Dallas streets and New York City windows. The Zooming, Looming, Cartooning. The creativity, collaborations, hilarity. Oh … and the talking dogs.

To be fair, I know that SO MANY PEOPLE are beyond stressed trying to hang on to a job, or juggling working from home with eLearning, figuring out how to care for elderly loved ones and how to keep their houses bleached and clean. I know that there are many people trying to quarantine who don’t even have a house at all. Or have a non-family roommate in a cramped space. I know that at any moment, in anyone’s home, an onset of illness can creep in and there will be absolutely nothing inspirational about that. I know there is grief (and guilt in the grief) in all that will be missed: a high school senior’s last baseball season, a family vacation, a college graduation, a wedding, a birth, or even just a missed field day. And I know there is so much heartbreak in looking at the job losses, the destroyed lives, the rising death toll each day.

But we can also have grateful hearts that many families are taking this time together to re-connect. That there are those running straight toward the virus and those it affects, to help strangers. That cities are able to be still. That there is still good in the world. That people are making the best of it in the worst of times.

The lines from A Tale of Two Cities seem especially prescient right now and Charles Dickens can certainly explain it better than I can:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Stay home, Indy. And stay beautiful.